2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


The Destruction of Illegal Temples and Temple Land Disposition in
Guangdong in Mid-Ming China

Jianmin Ren

Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The destruction of illegal temples and its impact in mid-Ming Guangdong is an important issue for our understanding of government and society. This article examines temple land taxes and corvee to highlight the changes that stemmed from the destruction of illegal temples in mid-Ming Guangdong, and the conflict of interest between the Guangdong local government and literati class hidden under the name of destroying illegal temples. After Wei Xiao’s destruction of illegal temples, most of the large temples with thousands of acres of farmland no longer existed in the Pearl River Delta; however, the status of the farmland released from temples did not change to the civilian land. Temple land was assessed for taxes and corvee differently from civilian land, and even if the temple land was sold, the government still had some control over it. Even though buyers paid the proper price to purchase temple land, officials were still able to ask for a higher price in the name of military supplies or palace construction costs. In Guangdong, especially in the Pearl River Delta region, the Jiajing reign was a critical period in the transition of Guangdong temple land, and Wei Xiao’s destruction of illegal temple land was just the start of this transition. Thereafter, the controversy over the ownership of temple land and on increasing prices in the early Jiajing, as well as taxes and corvee on temple land in the mid-Jiajing period, changed the nature of tax and corvee policies regarding “temple land” in Guangdong.


Keywords: Guangdong, destruction of illegal temples, temple land, taxes and corvee, increasing prices